Thanksgiving hits a sore spot with me. The thought of putting food traditions before family traditions is just sad. Isn’t the point of Thanksgiving to GIVE THANKS? I mean, it’s right there in the title of the holiday. Thankful for family, friends, and the ability to be together SAFELY. Shouldn’t we be able to put food traditions aside for those closest to us?
I thought this year would be different. I had been texting Squid’s teacher about their menu for the “Pilgrims and Indians” celebration they were having at the preschool. She and I were so excited that Squid would be included and that he would finally be able to safely sit at the same table with his friends while eating a meal. Then everything changed.
The program director decided to bring back the tradition of inviting parents to the celebration. That’s great but that meant the menu would be changing. It also meant Squid would be left at his own table, eating by himself once again for this day that is suppose to be a celebration with friends. I was heart broken! I was especially heart broken that I received this news the day before the event. After talking with the program director, she decided she would bring some safe items for him to eat so he could be included.
Hindsight: I should have just volunteered to bring him a lunch but we’ll get back to that later.
The day of the Pilgrims and Indians celebration, I’m still a little sad for Squid but I decided to put it behind me because I knew we could safely sit with a friend or two as long as we left some space and washed up after the meal. Seating arrangements quickly became the least of my worries.
Walk into the cafeteria and look at all the food on the table
- Breaded chicken: DANGER!
- Mac & Cheese, mac & cheese, mac & cheese: DANGER DANGER DANGER!
HOW MANY DISHES OF MAC & CHEESE DO WE NEED?! DANGER!! How are we going to keep all those cheesy hands away from my contact allergic child? DANGER!!
- Stay calm, stay calm, smile, look confident
- Do those veggies have butter in them?
- Look at all that icing on those cookies! DANGER!
- Look confident, smile, don’t freak out, Squid had his own food….
Wait this is not what we discussed. Where is the safe food for my child? Where’s the grilled chicken? She said she would order grilled chicken.
Upon realizing that thing were not going as we discussed, I asked the director if she ordered Squid any grilled chicken and she told me she already had him a plate made (the students hadn’t made it to their seats yet). His plate looked okay but when she told me she read the chicken twice and it didn’t contain Egg or Soy, I became concerned. He’s not allergic to Soy, he’s allergic to Milk. Fear rushed over me.
Hindsight: I should have scooped his plate off the table and taken it with me until I deemed it safe.
One look at the label and there it was in bold letters CONTAINS: SOY & MILK. Bless her heart, she tried but milk is everywhere. I returned to the cafeteria area to find my child sitting at his plate, digging into his meal. Every alarm went off inside of me and my adrenaline with on max. DANGER! I started screaming NO! NO! NO! WHAT DID YOU EAT? SPIT IT OUT! THE CHICKEN HAS MILK! WHAT DID YOU EAT? I squished his cheeks to open his mouth and to my relief found a pretzel inside. Thank you, God!!!
Mind of an allergy parent:
That was close. TOO CLOSE! Now what is he going to eat? That plate is contaminated. Get that plate out of here! There is only mac & cheese with a side of mac & cheese. What is he going to eat? Is it hot in here? I need to get out of here. I need to get my child out of here! Was that pretzel touching the chicken? Oh God, that was too close! That you God for your protection over my Squid! I need to get out of here.
And as you can see, after the situation was deemed “safe” I went into full-on panic attack over our close call. Yep, right there in front of everyone. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I’m doing all of this with a 20 pound baby on my hip.
Squid’s teacher kept an eye on him while the director pulled me into the back room. There was a whole lot of ugly crying, shaking, and the other lovely panic attack symptoms in the bathroom for the rest of the event. Squid’s teacher came to check on me, brought me a drink, prayed over me, and offered her general support in an unfamiliar situation. My poor husband had to leave work to come help me calm down. I was so embarrassed! I went back in to get Squid and just prayed the whole time that nobody would see my splotchy red skin and bloodshot eyes. I never want to do that again!
HOW TO KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN:
1. Read every label, every time, YOURSELF!
This is something I know and I shouldn’t have to be reminded but here I am reminding myself that I need to read the label myself BEFORE a plate is served to my child. I went back to read the label again to see exactly which milk ingredient chicken could possible contain. It had whey protein. (If you’re not familiar with milk protein, casein and whey are the big two.) When I pointed it out to the director, she said “oh, I had no idea.”
Mind of an allergy parent:
Why would you tell me that you read the label TWICE if you don’t know which ingredients are milk?! The rest of the day’s events have just made me sad, anxious, or embarrassed but THAT just TICKS ME OFF!
2. Always bring a safe backup meal
Again, I shouldn’t have to be reminded of this but there I was without a backup plan. We take a backup meal EVERYWHERE! We’ve been doing it since he was diagnosed.
Silly mom, you know better. I’m so mad that I failed on my fail safe. I think this irritates me the most.
3. Keep informed of changes
I wish I had more control over this one but I didn’t. We were out of town an Squid’s allergy appointment when the changes were made. The teacher said the director was suppose to talk to me about it but it looks like the topic just fell through the cracks with everything else going on around this busy season. I was disappointed that I found out the night before the event that (unsafe) menu changes had been made but that’s beyond my control.
4. Action plan
I’ve read numerous upon numerous blogs about anxiety. I have bible verses memorized about dealing with anxiety. I’ve read how to ground yourself during a panic attack. Nothing worked this time. The panic attack overtook me and I felt like I was drowning. I guess it’s a natural reaction to a close call but I wish I could have kept it together a little better. Hey, at least my allergy plan was in place and worked well, right?
I’m still embarrassed.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of “you never come see us anymore.” Not that visits were frequent before children but our closest relatives live at least an hour away.
I never knew how much stuff a baby needed when traveling. It’s quite a chore, especially if you’re staying the night! Now let’s add food allergies into that mix. YOWZAS!
Here are some of the extra steps I have to take when traveling.
1. I start by thinking (and obsessing) over every little detail. Who will be there? Will they respect my rules regarding Squid’s allergies? Will there be food? If there is food, will it be safe? If it’s not safe, will people wash their hands before touching Squid? What will we eat? How long are we staying? How much food will we need? Should I take extra cleaning wipes for other people’s hands/our eating area? HOW AM I GOING TO KEEP MY CHILD SAFE??? The list goes on and on and on!
2. Take all those questions from #1 and begin packing. It takes me AT LEAST two days to pack and make sure everything is perfect because we do not have the “stop at the nearest fast food option.” It’s what I bring or nothing because after several reactions and way too many close calls, I really have a hard time trusting food that wasn’t cooked by me or with me present.
3. The day has come. We’ve made the trip and arrived safely. The hard part is over right? HA! Not a chance. Remember all of those questions from #1? They’re still buzzing in my head but this time they’re being played out in real life. I can’t relax at all during my visit due to worry about what Squid may accidentally be exposed to and how many hives he will get THIS time.
Vacation is not a vacation for me! My idea of a vacation these days is leaving Squid with Daddy and having some Mommy time of some sort. Family events where I can relax are very rare, especially if they involve food. Needless to say, Thanksgiving is my new version of a complete nervous wreck nightmare!
4. Making it back home without hives or a hospital visit is nothing short of a miracle! Praise God!
Please be understanding. Please be patient. Food allergies are rough.